Students rampage over school-meal price hikes

08:30, November 26, 2010      

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A group of high school students stormed their cafeteria in a southwestern Chinese city early this week, smashing windows and overturning tables, in an apparent protest against the rising prices of school meals, and as public concern grows nationwide about record-high inflation levels.

Students at the No. 2 High School in Liupanshui, Guizhou Province gathered at their cafeteria Monday evening at 10:20 pm to "seek explanations" after they found that meals and boiled water prices had gone up by 0.2 to 0.3 yuan ($0.03). The dispute turned violent and ended up with the cafeteria trashed, tables broken and windows smashed, officials from the education bureau in Liupanshui told the Global Times.

The Liupanshui Daily said some 1,000 students went on the rampage, but school principal Fan Guoqing told AFP that "only 10 to 20 students took part while many others cheered them on."

Several online posts suggested that the incident lasted about 20 minutes and students stopped when public security officers came to intervene. No injuries were reported during the incident.

"The prices have returned to their original levels. The operations of both the cafeteria and the school have returned to normal," a local official surnamed Li told the Global Times.

Li said the case is sensitive and no solutions have been put in place so far to prevent copycat incidents.

"Those students are mostly from poor families, and they will be not be held legally responsible," he said.

A student surnamed Chen told the Guizhou Metropolis Daily that the average prices of dishes at the school cafeteria had gone up by 0.5 yuan in total, with boiled water climbing from 0.7 yuan to 1 yuan. "This is the second price hike at the cafeteria. Students are discontent and agreed to smash it," he was quoted as saying.

The school cafeteria had been leased to a private company for a duration of 24 years, and students were not informed of the second price hike, the Liupanshui Daily reported. It added that the students stole some food and overturned the Buick belonging to the company's boss.

The cafeteria is now being operated by the school, said a teacher there who spoke to the Global Times on condition of anonymity, amid efforts to placate the students.

Guizhou is one of China's most impoverished provinces. It still has 5.55 million rural people living in poverty, accounting for 15.4 percent of the country's total, the Xinhua News Agency reported last week.

By Guo Qiang, Global Times
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